Hart Trophy: Connor McDavid
In 2013, Habs forward Lars Eller raised some eyebrows when he compared the Edmonton Oilers to a junior team. The only reason that his comment doesn’t still ring true, five seasons later, is the play from the man they call ‘McJesus’: Connor McDavid. McDavid, on pace for 118 points, has single-handedly willed a terrible Oilers team within four points of the last wildcard spot as of Nov. 26. McDavid deserves the de-facto most valuable player award for his ability to grant his AHL-calibre teammates with cushy NHL contracts and because he has hoodwinked the NHL into thinking that the Oilers are not that bad.
Norris Trophy: Mark Giordano
With the Pacific Division up for grabs, Flames captain Mark Giordano is in line to win his first Norris, awarded to the best all-round defenceman. Playing nearly 24.5 minutes a night, Giordano’s elite playmaking ability has him on pace for 75 points, and the Flames give up half as many passes to high-scoring areas when he is on the ice. Giordano is also on the ice for 6.5 per cent more shots for than shots against, a higher percentage than all other candidates, including Morgan Reilly and Thomas Chabot.
Vezina Award: Pekka Rinne
At 36 years old, Pekka Rinne is proving doubters and aging curves wrong. Rinne has put together another elite campaign in net for the Nashville Predators, and the statistics show it: He has a 10-2-1 record, .942 save percentage, and 1.68 goals against average. With the league’s best defence in front of him, Rinne is in an optimal position to be named the league’s best netminder again. Other Vezina contenders include the Maple Leafs’ Frederik Andersen and the Ducks’ John Gibson, who could continue to put forward compelling cases by season’s end.
Calder Trophy: Elias Pettersson
Despite missing six games after suffering a concussion in October, Elias Pettersson is off to a quick start. With 13 goals and 21 points in his first 20 NHL games for the lowly Vancouver Canucks, the opening to his rookie campaign has been on par with those of Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. His speed, scoring, and playmaking abilities have compelled Wayne Gretzky to compare Pettersson to, well, himself. The sky appears to be the limit for the 20-year-old, and he should coast to the Calder—provided that he remains healthy throughout the season.
Jack Adams Award: Phil Housley
Shocking many in the hockey world, Phil Housley’s Buffalo Sabres have jumped into playoff contention just a season removed from being the NHL’s worst team. Housley has coached the Sabres to the league’s third-best record as of Nov. 26. He has managed his top line of Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Jason Pominville as it has developed into one of the most dominant offensive lines in hockey, and the team is well on its way to their first playoff appearance since 2011.
Stanley Cup Champion: Nashville Predators
As of Nov. 26, the Predators lead the league in points, on pace for a remarkable 120. The Predators are a team without weakness: They have a solid forward core, an exceptional goalie tandem of Rinne and Juuse Saros, and one of the best defences in the NHL. Their tremendous depth provides an advantage over other contenders: For instance, after Tampa Bay Lightning starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was injured, the Bolts, otherwise a tough team, saw their record suffer due to weak back-up netminding. Elsewhere, the Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks could be contenders, but both teams have had slow starts relative to preseason expectations. At this rate, the Predators have emerged as the clear-cut favourite to win it all.